'Games in Freiburg are very special'

The Werkself are away to SC Freiburg in the Bundesliga on Saturday (15.30 CET). Following the recent wins against Hoffenheim (4-1) and Mainz (2-0), Bayer 04 are looking for a third victory in succession at the Schwarzwald Stadium – for the first time in the current campaign.

After 20 league games, ten points and ten places in the table separate the Black and Reds from the White and Reds. However, Heiko Herrlich refuses to take anything for granted. "It will be a very tough challenge," said the Werkself head coach at the pre-match press conference early on Friday morning ahead of what he calls an "absolute top game." A look at the stats shows the 46-year-old may well be right: SCF have collected 16 points from the last eight games in the league – the only teams to have picked up more points over that timescale are Bayer 04 (17) and Bayern Munich (21). Primarily due to recent results against clubs from the top third of the table, Freiburg under coach Christian Streich have earned respect: A 1-1 draw at Eintracht Frankfurt was followed by a 2-1 win at home to RB Leipzig and a 2-2 draw at Borussia Dortmund. "They scored the equaliser in Dortmund in added time," noted Herrlich.

Herrlich returns to old stomping ground

The boss warned against being misled by the convincing 4-0 home win in the middle of September 2017: "The individual players and the team have come on leaps and bounds under Christian Streich. It won't be anything like the game in the first half of the season," said Herrlich ahead of the game in the Breisgau that represents a return to his Baden homeland. As a 14-year-old, Herrlich went to Freiburg's ground as a fan and in 1986 he played for the SCF U17s before moving on to Bayer 04 three years later where he made his debut as a pro. "At the end of the day, none of the games in the Bundesliga are easy but Freiburg is simply very special for me. Lots of players and teams find it hard to play at Freiburg. They are incredibly strong at home, are very physical and play with a lot of passion. Of course, we want to take all three points. To do that we need to be wide-awake and prepared to give our all to get a result," said Herrlich.

Looking forward to Tuesday's cup game against Werder Bremen, the coach announced he would rotate his team: "It's absolutely clear we won't play with the same line-up for four games in succession. In the past we've always done very well with rotating the players so they were always capable of performing straightaway. And that's what we're going to do again this time. It's important for us to not just have eleven but rather 16, 17 or 18 regular first team players who we can rely on immediately."

Baumgartlinger sidelined with a cold

Julian Baumgartlinger is definitely ruled out for the Werkself. The 30-year-old, who was available again after being kicked on the thigh in last weekend's match, is suffering from a virus and will not travel to Baden. Sven Bender, who completed a light session in training yesterday, could well be fit in time. "I can't say he'll definitely be on the pitch tomorrow. But you know the Benders always want to make it," said a hopeful Herrlich. It remains to be seen who the coach will pick in place of Baumgartlinger and Admir Mehmedi after his transfer to VFL Wolfsburg: "We'll wait until the last possible moment and then decide what's best."

The Werkself will have the support of 1,100 fans at Freiburg.


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